One hundred and fifty three.
This is the number of college campuses across the United States that have started “fossil free” campaigns, according to 350.org, whose mission is to “build a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis.”
Scientists suggest that 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity – but 350.org reports that we are at 392 ppm. The site reports that fuel corporations have “five times more oil and coal and gas in known reserves than climate scientists think is safe to burn.”
According to the site, college activists who are part of the campaign are demanding their schools “immediately freeze any investment in fossil fuel companies and divest from direct ownership that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds.”
Some of their efforts have been successful. According to a New York Times article published on Tuesday, Unity College in Maine recently voted to divest from fossil fuels. Responding to pressure from its students, President of Unity College Stephen Mulkey wrote in a letter, “Our students are demanding action. We must not ignore them.”
However, other schools have not been as lucky. Swarthmore College, for example, rejected students’ requests to divest from fossil fuels with little explanation, according to the Times.
Here at Boston University, we’ve seen evidence of a similar movement. In September, several concerned students formed the group Divest BU to encourage BU officials to withdraw their money from fossil fuel stocks.
Student activism, especially at such a great magnitude, is incredibly impressive, when it comes to protecting our fragile environment. We commend the 153 campuses across the nation, and BU, for making strides toward protecting our earth.
Earlier this week BU Spokesman Colin Riley told The Daily Free Press that BU’s investment in fossil fuels is not significant. While this is true, we believe it is important for BU officials to hear these students out, especially as the negative impact of fossil fuels on our environment becomes more of a reality.
However, students must also understand that a university – especially one as large as BU – cannot just withdraw investments without considering the impact it would have on the campus as a whole. As students, we do not really know the specifics of the current relationship between the university and the companies, thus it’s difficult to argue that BU should divest itself completely.
Similarly, there are alternatives to helping the environment. Earth Sciences Professor James Lawford Anderson told The Daily Free Press that BU has already taken steps toward decreasing its reliance on fossil fuels by using geothermal technologies and natural gas.
Ultimately, even if BU does not choose to divest itself completely, officials should still sit down with student activists to have a conversation about what can be done in the future and how students can help play a larger role in campus efforts.